Monday, September 01, 2008

I'm Singing Tonight at Kulak's Open Mic.

This evening I am going to be down at Kulak's open mic if anyone wants to watch online or just be there. Just know that it's a very small, relaxed listening room. The seats are not particularly comfortable, but there is a bed and some floor futon seating. (I usually prefer to sit on the floor). It starts at 7:30pm Pacific time and goes till 10.

I was a guest artist there this past Saturday night for a little fundraiser singer Julie Chadwick was holding for a small pet rescue group but, because of the holiday, there were only a few attendees (who weren't on the bill as performers). A guy in a wheel chair, a senior lady dressed as if going to church sitting on the couch, possibly from the senior center just up the road, and a few scattered others.

A little background: If you don't have a car, North Hollywood's Laurel Canyon Blvd. can feel dark and dangerous. There's no real place for community. It's zoned in this area for business. But none of the businesses are open at night. So, it becomes a ghost town.

Or was until Kulak set up this small performance/hang-out 8 years ago purely as a labor of love. I met Paul back when he was first getting the Woodshed started. He loved folk music and great songwriting and he wanted to create a space for that to happen. (Unfortunately, this is irritating two of the surrounding businessmen and it's been a tooth and nail fight to stay open.)

So, songwriters in the area, both new and old, began hanging out, doing jam sessions on Wednesday night, playing music for each other. And it started creating a community of artists, writers, plus folks who live in the area on limited incomes who benefit from a safe, alcohol-free, drug-free place to go at night. There's no charge to hang out at Kulak's but donations are accepted. Kids and pets allowed.

And it's all acoustic. The noise level has to remain low.

And the artists are broadcast live over the net.

Paul Kulak, who pays for the overhead with his camera rental business, has installed, over the years, a multi-camera set-up all made with spare parts and ingenious creativity. One automated camera is pitched high on the wall and runs on a home-made track to scan the whole room. One is on a boom, and a third runs along a rail set up along the headboard of the bed.

It's fun to sit in the control booth with him and listen to him teach his volunteers how to frame shots. If I were going to TV school, I'd be down here every night volunteering.

And by doing this he has created a wealth of material, the soft underbelly of music made in Los Angeles by Los Angeleans. It's value is incalculable. A lot of it is online here in the archives.

It's the open mic, though, that's my favorite. Open mics are always dangerous because there will always be some garage superstar who imagines himself to be the greatest thing on earth who will embarrass everyone but himself. How can you not love that (well, except while it's happening, of course)?

But then you get a couple of young, good looking guys who just show up, whip out a guitar and a small keyboard and sound like Radiohead. (Akiav). Or there's this teen girl who comes. Very beautiful. Dresses in matching boots and hats. You're expecting a weak approximation of a vocal but instead it's this amazingly rich alto. And like me, she plays well enough to accompany herself.

I have been taking some video myself and will soon post some stuff for you to look at.

Also, I met yesterday with a guy who I met up in Pismo Beach doing Shakespeare. His name is Jake Wesley Stewart. Very talented, impossibly handsome, actor and singer who is a year fresh from North Carolina. He works for a mutual friend, Marty Panzer, one of L.A.'s most gifted songwriters. (Hi, Marty!) So I invited him over to sing and he's going to join me tonight on "Going It Alone."

You'll know me. I'll be the garage superstar who imagines himself to be the greatest thing on earth who will embarrass everyone but himself.

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